Why BC-STV is the most important issue this election

April 2, 2009

In the upcoming election there are many important issues to consider as you decide who to vote for, but there is one issue that is more important for the long term than any other.  The choice British Columbians make in this election about their electoral system will ring through decades and change how your voice will be heard in all following elections.  But it seems that, so far, people don’t see this.

In a recent debate on BC-STV hosted by COPE there was  a low turnout of 100 people, as reported in thetyee

Both parties did mention the lack of interest around electoral reform. Tieleman said “its not a burning issue for the public” and Hodgson called the referendum a “meta-issue” somewhat separated from other issues in the public eye.

Now, the no campaign, which Tieleman runs, has a vested interest in the meme that “its not a burning issue” and that this somehow justifies defeating it.  Its a good thing environmentalists, AIDS activists and civil rights activists throughout history didn’t take that attitude.  The majority of the population rarely has a “burning desire” to alter the status quo, thats why its the status quo.

But sometimes the status quo has to change, for very good reasons, its just that most people aren’t spending all their time thinking about those reasons.  Which is fair enough.  People assume their democracy is humming along smoothly and that it is essentially fair.  Those who are afraid of change are trying to encourage this view. They are tapping into the natural distaste for nasty politics and the cynical assumption that those in power will never listen to us no matter what we do.

Anthony Hodgson is right in a way, electoral reform is  a meta-issue, but its not really separate from other issues, it informs and magnifies every single issue.  Think about the issue you care most about: global warming, senate reform, gay rights, national defense, crime, drugs, education, jobs.  Now ask yourself, does the MLA currently representing me actually understand my issue? Is he or she really the best possible advocate to send to Victoria for what I think is most important?

I hope you will be honest and admit the answer is ‘no’.  In fact it can’t really be ‘yes’, there could always be someone better to represent you, namely, you.  Unless you’re going to run for politics, thats not going to happen.  So given that, what is the next best thing we could hope for?  Well, we could hope that of the choices given to us in our riding, the person who best represents our view is selected.  Great, simple.  Was that true in the last election? Or the one before that, or the one before that?

Maybe it was for some people, but really, not for that many of us.  The problem is that we can only pick one person to represent everyone in our riding.  Everyone!  My neighbour doesn’t care about the environment at all but I do and some of my friends are obsessed with issues of crime and drugs and I think education and jobs are a better solution than more police on the streets.  There is no way for us to pick one person to represent our “common” views on these issues.  Sure, the legislature needs to pick one approach over the other eventually, and if I’m a minority in the province then I accept that.  That’s democracy. But I do demand that my opinion, or something relatively close to it, is represented at the table. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, I think that’s what most people want. I think its what most people think our current system gives them.

But it doesn’t.

In 2001 our “fair and balanced”  first-past-the-post system reduced the NDP, the only other party in the legislature, to two seats. Two!  It wasn’t that the Liberals received 98% of the vote in the province, far from it, they received only 58% of the vote.  Clearly they should have won and formed government, but is it possible for every NDP voter in the province to have their complex opinions on various issues expressed by those two MLAs? This is not even to mention the completely disenfranchised voters who chose to “stick to their principles”, as we are often told to do by supporters of FPTP, and voted for the Green party or some other party.  FPTP doesn’t reward ‘sticking to your principles’.  It rewards the winner and the winner alone.  In a society where we can never get more than 50% of the people to agree on anything does it make any sense to give a candidate who simply wins the most votes absolute say to “represent” their riding?  Are you still being honest? The answer is ‘no’.

In this upcoming election, no matter what your issue is, no matter which party wins, there only really important questions are:  Do you support switching to a fair voting system that takes into account multiple viewpoints and allows each riding to send MLAs representing multiple viewpoints to Victoria?  Do you want your vote to always count?  Do you want as much of your vote as possible to count, even allowing you to express your preferences over people from different parties?  Do want your voice to be heard? or Do you vote No because you are scared of change, you really benefit from the status quo, and you are one of the few lucky ones who happens to agree exactly with the most popular candidate in your riding?

No matter what your issues are, switching to BC-STV will revolutionize democracy in BC and maybe even the rest of Canada.  Your voice will be heard louder and more clearly than it is now, on any issue.  For whatever your issue is, the fastest, most efficient way from here to there, is through changing the system so that Victoria can hear us all a lot better.


One Response to “Why BC-STV is the most important issue this election”

  1. […] reform is another issues lots of people believe passionately in and it has the wonderful meta-property that whatever cause you believe passionately in, a more fair voting system willl greatly increase […]

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